Surfing or Drowning –
I just finished reading an article from seven years ago today about a father and son who were killed by a drunk driver. The mom shared it on social media and the heartache is still present and the wound raw. I can’t imagine the pain. I knew the father a little. He was in our church’s youth group. He was a few years older than me but always seemed cool. He was an athlete. He ran, biked, swam, and surfed. The morning dad and son were killed they were training for a triathlon. The father was named after his father and the son carried on the tradition. He was the III.
How do you have hope in the midst of such loss? How do you not drown in sorrow? How do you not get lost in such darkness? I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Quips and quotes don’t begin to address the brokenness and reveal our lack of intimacy with death. We do everything we can to avoid it. Most of us try to prolong our lives by any means necessary. When death finally does come we are quick to make the arrangements, organize a memorial or funeral service and push past it as fast as possible. But even then, death finds a way to corner us, trap us, confront us. After the hustle and bustle of meals, flowers, sympathy cards, and services we find ourselves alone when death, misery, mourning, comes calling.
Experts tell us that when we are caught in a riptide to not fight the current or it will surely drown its victim. Let it grab you and then slowly, moving parallel to the shore, slip from its grip. I think this is how we deal with the loss of those we love. There’s no escaping and fighting and refusing to acknowledge its power end in certain defeat. To allow it take hold, scare us, shake our faith, sweep our “normal” life away, but not giving up is the key. Slowly our strength returns, we regain our bearings, we slip from its grip, rise above the waters and live.
My friend, role-model, and father passed away early this morning a little after midnight. His fight was over and he was ready. He sat up one last time as if to say, “It’s my time. I’m coming home.”
The house seemed empty today when we returned from all the breathless running around one does after a loved one takes their final breath. Even though he hasn’t been home in a few weeks it seemed he had just left the house. Keys, hats, computers, movies, his chair all still in their proper place. It seems this is still his house, his home. But…it’s not. Sure, there are memories and experiences. A lifetime of highs and lows to relive for the rest of our time on this shadow side of eternity but he has moved and left a forwarding address.
I sit in the quietude with his presence still lingering. I think about all of the rough days he’s had over the last 8 months, the noises of the machines which were keeping him alive. After we received the phone call we drove over to the hospice house to say our; “Goodbyes.” The room was so still. No beeping, whirring, pumping, dripping, nurses checking in. It was motionless and the silence was deafening. My mother began to fill the atmosphere with soft cries, and soft words to her best friend and lover of the last 40 years. My brother and I standing in the background, witnesses to a heart affair which is rare in this world. Finally, after a few more kisses from her on his hands and cheek, we left all thankful we’d never see that room again and that he had moved on to his permanent address.
And now, we are left to carry on. To occupy a house which isn’t home without him. To learn to adjust to a new normal we didn’t choose. To loosen our grip on this world, this place, because we know home is waiting for us on the other side.
This morning I had an early appointment so fixed my breakfast to go. I like cereal but not milk so I put some bran flakes in a cup, mixed in raisins and was ready. I even put a top on the cup of cereal so I wouldn’t spill it. I hopped in the truck and was on my way. When I made it to the highway and would be going straight without turning, I popped open the tabs on my coffee cup and drank and reached down, carefully took the lid off the cereal and then lifted it up to begin munching on my homemade raisin bran. As I did I caught the top of the cup on the lip of the cover of the console between the seats. Before I knew it the cup had been knocked out of my hand, landed side ways between the seats, spilling the cereal underneath my seat. There was barely any left to eat. Sigh. So much for breakfast.
As I continued driving to my appointment the growl in my stomach was ferocious but didn’t have time to stop and grab a bite anywhere. I drank my coffee which helped and by the time I arrived at my location I had nearly forgotten the mess of the spilled cereal.
Life is about learning to let go of things we care about. It’s about dealing with and accepting that even those things which we take great care of are still, one day or moment, going to slip through our fingers. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”
The question becomes; “Can we let go when the time comes? Are we able to continue to travel the path even with grief and loss? Do we understand that losing control, our grip, on the things we treasure is part of the necessary experiences that allow us to fully be and feel alive?”
The last several days have been tense! Words of threats, warnings, retaliations, and war are being thrown back and forth between leaders of nations who are acting like petulant children. It worries me but angers me more. Both men seem to think it’s a game and forget the millions of lives which would be impacted, endangered, and ended if this fiasco goes further.
I wonder how leaders can become so distant from the people they represent? It isn’t just dictators and presidents but people in businesses, families, churches, and organizations in all shapes and sizes. The penetration of power into our spirits seem to corrupt whoever tries to yield it. It is why all wisdom leaders flee from power over people. They understand the grip and the destruction which can be wrought by good men turned and twisted by power and its propensity for evil.
I hope one of the two “leaders” will take a step back and take a deep breath. I pray they think of the people and not their egos. I want to see humility, not hubris. I’d like to be surprised by one of these men showing wisdom.